Skip to main content

Transitional Deal

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 1 December 2016

10. Whether the Government plan to seek a transitional deal with the EU as part of their strategy for the UK exiting the EU. (907600)

We are seeking to ensure a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union, and it would not be in the interests of either side—Britain or the European Union—to see disruption. To that end, we are examining all possible options, focusing on the mutual interests of the UK and the European Union.

The Prime Minister recently told the CBI conference that we want to avoid a cliff edge. Further to the answer that the Secretary of State gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), and given that our EU partners have so far refused to commit to parallel negotiations on our future arrangements alongside those on article 50, what is the plan if we cannot start, let alone conclude, those negotiations within two years? Will we be forced off that cliff and on to World Trade Organisation rules and tariffs, with all the consequences for jobs and investment that business has warned of?

The substance of the hon. Lady’s question is incredibly important and, as she has said, the Prime Minister addressed it at the CBI. She addressed it again yesterday and that is why she has said that we want a smooth and orderly exit. How that occurs will be affected by a number of things. The hon. Lady has mentioned the structural issue relating to whether the negotiation is done in parallel or in series. We do not accept the series approach. We have made that plain to the European Union, and we need to deal with that before we come to the detailed question of whether there is a transition or not.

On transition itself, I make this important point. The Select Committee Chairman, the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), is sitting next to the hon. Lady. Transition, when it is raised by various people, will mean different things. For example, when the Europeans talk about it, it effectively means a much longer negotiation period, while other people are concerned about matters such as financial stability. There are different issues that need to be dealt with in a different way.

I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman says that he needs to make an important point; all points made by Secretaries of State ought to be important, as should the points made to them.

UK money through the European Union funds important international development projects all over the world. As part of any transitional arrangements, will the Secretary of State make sure that those continue to be supported and that the plug is not pulled when or if the UK finally leaves?

There is no “if” about it. There is a “when.” I say that to the hon. Gentleman quite firmly, because that is part of the problem that the European Union has had in engaging on the process so far. Many of them want to see this not happen and they have to face up to that so we get the right answer.

The hon. Gentleman raises a significant issue. I have not addressed it in detail myself, but I will do so. Will he forgive me if I write to him on this matter, because it is sufficiently important that I think I should do so?